Is Polygamy Wrong? (No. 2)

Ray Ferris
Racine, Wisconsin

We turn now in our study of polygamy to material contained in God's word that will specifically apply to it. Our examination will be fourfold in its nature. We will first go back to the original plan, or authority, by which the home was founded. Next we will note the comments of Jesus on the subject of marriage. Third, we will examine some illustrations from the pen of the apostle Paul, and last we will notice some questions in an effort to clarify the whole picture in our thinking.

Genesis 2:23-24

In Genesis, chapter two, we have a record of the Lord's desire that man have "an help meet for him," and His recognition that none of the animals that had been made was satisfactorv. Thus he caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, took one of his ribs, and made the first woman. When the Lord presented her to Adam his response was as follows: "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Read Genesis 2:18-24. Here then is authority for what we have come to know as the marriage relationship. Lest someone come forth with the quibble that the statement quoted above was the voice of Adam and not the voice of God, we cite the times these words are quoted in the New Testament as God's will on this matter. Note Matt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-8; and Eph. 5:31.

Notice that Genesis 2:24 emphasizes a separation and an adherence. The man who takes unto himself a wife is to separate hirriself from the very closest ties that had existed in his life-leave his father and his mother-and to adhere to his wife. The Hebrew word that is here translated cleave is the word dabaq, and according to Young's Analytical Concordance means adhere to. It is translated by a number of different expressions in the Old Testament, but in each instance this root meaning seems to prevail. Thus we see that it was the will of the Lord that the husband adhere to the wife. Webster says that adhere means "To stick fast or cleave, as a glutinous substance does; to become joined or united, as by sticking, growth, etc.; to cling." It is impossible to conceive of a man cleaving (adhering, sticking, growing, or uniting) to two or more women at the same time. Union with one demands separation from all others.

Oneness Of Flesh

In the latter part of verse 24 another statement is made that strengthens this thought. The two (man and woman or husband and wife) shall be one flesh. In other words, these two are no longer to be considered two bodies, but one body. Neither has the privilege and right of uniting with another flesh, or body. Notice Paul's usage of the relationship between Christ and the church to illustrate this point. "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." Eph. 5:28-31. Just as there is, as it were, one flesh or body in the unity of Christ and His church, there is to be that oneness between man and wife.

The oneness of this union of man and wife is manifested in the offspring of this union. Their descendants are in the likeness of this united flesh, or one flesh. To give either man or woman the right to attempt unity with another, and surely the woman would have as much right to do so as the man, is to destroy the oneness of the flesh that God intended. Likewise the offspring of this second "union" will manifest the fact that there is in reality no union, but rather confusion. It is impossible for a man to become one with two different women unless those two women have first become one with each other.

Perhaps someone will question my usage of the word two as we speak of the man and woman becoming one flesh, pointing to the fact that Gen. 2:24 says they shall be one flesh. Some would say this leaves room for man and many women (they would cover this situation) to become one flesh. I answer by noting that many of the very oldest versions of the Old Testament do contain the word two; that at the time there were only two-Adam and Eve; and that in the quotations of this verse in the passages noted above in the New Testament the word two is used by inspiration in every instance. Every one of us knows that two does not mean three or more, but two and only two. Thus there is no room for more than one woman for each man, or for more than one man for each woman.

Reason For This Union

Perhaps the most telling argument to be made is yet to be noted in this matter. Notice that verse 24 begins with the word therefore, which signifies a reference to something that has already preceded, and thus a conclusion is drawn therefrom. In the prior verse Adam is recorded as stating that Eve is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh; that she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man. The word that is translated woman is ishshah, and literally means she-man. Adam Clarke says our word woman is a contraction from an old Anglo-Saxon word which means the man with the womb. Eve was to be called woman because she was taken from the man, and because of this the man is to separate himself from father and mother and cleave unto his wife and become one flesh with her. But what point is being made in this thought? Because of the origin of woman (she was made from man and for man) there is to be a unity of flesh between the two in what we have come to know as marriage.

As we look back over the verses immediately preceding verses 23 and 24 of Genesis, chapter two, we find the account of the creation of woman. Notice that woman was created by God to fulfill a specific purpose. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." The creation of Eve was thus God's way of fulfilling man's need for a helper and companion. When God prepares something to fulfill a need of man we can always depend on the knowledge, wisdom, judgment, and power of God. His creation will be the best that could be devised, and will represent His will on the matter. Any change that we attempt to make is a questioning of God's omniscience and omnipotence, and thus is a rebellion against the will of God.

Now what did God do in preparation for the fulfillment of the first man's need in the way of companionship and help. He made one woman! Why not two women, or three, or even more? There is purpose in that which God does. God intended that each man have one woman, and only one woman. This is the pattern that God has set, and for man to deviate from this pattern is to deviate from God's revealed will on the matter. The argument made by Adam, and approved by the Lord and His apostles in the New Testament, is based upon this very point. God made one woman for the man and from the one man. Therefore, or for this reason, man is to be joined together with this one woman, becoming one flesh or one body with her.

We will illustrate this point. In God's divine arrangement there was a need for the church in which man may serve the God of heaven, and in which he may look forward to salvation in the eternity to come. God supplied that need by establishing the church of Christ through His Son. The church is the bride of Christ, as taught by the New Testament in such passages as Rom. 7:1-4 and Rev. 18:23 ; 21:2; 21:9; and 22:17. Just as God's wisdom supplied only one church to be the bride of Jesus, even so God's wisdom supplied only one woman to be the wife, or bride, of Adam. It would have been rebellion against God for Christ to have established more than one church, and thus seek more than one bride for Himself; and it is rebellion against the Lord to try to serve the Lord in two or more churches, and thus attempt to supply more than one bride for Christ. It must also be rebellion against God to change His revealed will concerning the number of women authorized to be one man's wife.

Matthew Nineteen

Now let us turn to the New Testament and note the argument of our Lord concerning God's plan for man in marriage. In Matt. 19:3-9 we have a record of the Pharisees attempting to trap the Lord into some sort of predicament that would seemingly conflict with the teaching of Moses on the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Their question did not specifically refer to polygamy, but in the answer Jesus gave He makes God's plan clear. Notice these words: "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Verses 3-6. Notice the reason given for man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife and becoming one with her-because God had made them male and female at the beginning. He did not make them male and females-one man and several women-but one man and one woman. Jesus himself gave this as the cause for the man cleaving to his wife-not wives-and becoming one flesh or body with her-not them.

In Matthew's account the Greek word translated cleave is proskollao. Thaver says it means to "glue upon, glue to, to join one's self to closely, cleave to, stick to." The word is a combination of the preposition pros and the verb kollao. The preposition is one that means to, toward, at, near, or hard by. The verb means "to glue, glue to, glue together, cement, fasten together; hence univ. to join or fasten firmly together; in the N.T. on1y the pass. is found, with reflexive force, to join one's self to, cleave to, . . ." These definitions have been given that you may see the closeness of the relationship described by the Lord.

No Conflict Between Christ and Moses

Now after the answer of the Lord the Pharisees thought they had surely trapped Him, and thus asked, "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" In other words, it seemed to them that Jesus was rejecting the law that Moses had given them in the past. But now, notice the Lord's answer. "He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so." Verses 7 and 8. Now Jesus was specifically dealing with the matter of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. However, He points to a principle that we are concerned with as we study polygamy. He has demonstrated in verses four and five that God's plan was for one man to have one woman as his wife, and vice versa. Now, as the question of divorce and remarriage is discussed the question arises as to why Moses would instruct the Israelites to divorce and remarry for most any excuse, and since he did so, it is argued that this must mean the sanction and approval of almighty God.

How startling, then, must have been the answer of the Lord to those present when Jesus said, "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so." The lesson for us in our study-God permitted His chosen people to do things that were not sanctioned. Thus, because Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon practiced something is not necessarilv proof that God sanctioned it.

In Vincent's Word Studies In The New Testament, Vol. 1, page 108, he makes this observation about the words translated it was not so. "The A. V. is commonly understood to mean, it was not so in the beginning. But that is not Christ's meaning. The verb is in the perfect tense (denoting the continuance of past action or its results down to the present). He means: Notwithstanding Moses' permission the case has not been so from the beginning until now. The original ordinance has never been abrogated nor superseded, but continues in force." Thus we see that Jesus cites God's original plan-only one woman for each man and only one man for each woman-and says it has never been changed.

We shall conclude with some illustrations from Paul and show how they are worthless if polygamy is acceptable in God's sight, and note that one passage expressly condemns plural marriages.

Truth Magazine IV:3; pp. 1-3
December 1959